VMware’s Taara lights up path of women returning to work

Akshaya Chandrasekaran | Updated on November 05, 2020

Duncan-Hewett, SVP and GM Asia Pacific and Japan, VMware

The free virtual programme trains them in new tech skills

When Srivalli, 30, took a break from her career, it turned into a five-year hiatus. By the time she decided to get back to the workforce, everything had changed. Her experience as a Java developer was written off as irrelevant.

“I encountered mistrust and bias in recruiting women after a career gap. The pandemic only worsened my chances of landing a job,” says Srivalli. Faced with numerous rejections, she resolved to upskill herself.

The pivotal moment in reinventing her career, she says, was enrolling for VMware’s upskilling programme —Taara — and meeting other women like her. The California-based software firm has trained over 8,000 women in latest skills such as network virtualisation, data centre virtualisation, cloud management and automation as part of the Taara programme, launched in January 2019.

The free programme is open to female graduates without a job for over six months and aims to bring back women who took mid-career breaks for various reasons. But it’s during the pandemic that it has seen a rocket-like growth with a 104 per cent increase in registration compared to the previous year.

Srivalli says she could resonate with other women doing the Taara programme who faced similar doubts and concerns. Besides restarting their career journeys together, they have also emotionally supported each other. After completion of the Level I of Taara programme, Srivalli has got a job as a software engineer at an MNC dealing with medical records.

Similarly, for Varuni Rao, 24, the outcome has been happy. The information science graduate couldn’t secure an offer through campus placements and the pandemic only made it more challenging. After taking a three-month break, she enrolled in Taara, and completed Level I and Level II of the course. “I have been placed with tech company Luxoft India as an entry-level software engineer now. It has helped me reduce the skill gap and shorten the learning curve,” says Rao.

The programme has three levels, and offers certification at the end of each level. It is virtual, self-paced and flexible. Women from all over India have enrolled for the programme, including Kargil. VMware’s Taara, in partnership with the not-for-profit organisation Women Who Code, recently inked a pact with the Government of Telangana to offer these courses within the State.

There are others besides VMware trying to get more women into the workforce. SAP, for instance, runs Code Unnati and Girl Power Tech that is digitally empowering women with tech skills.

Such courses are important as India, despite having the highest number of female graduates in STEM (science, tech, engineering and maths) globally — at an estimated 43 per cent — ranks only 19th in employing them, according to a United Nations survey. Job losses due to Covid-19 have also disproportionately affected women worldwide, especially in the informal sectors, says the International Labour Organization (ILO).

‘A massive talent pool’

Hearteningly, the VMware Taara programme has helped women secure offers in 40 to 50 different tech companies. Duncan Hewett, Senior Vice-President and General Manager, Asia Pacific and Japan at VMware, says, “If we could help women in IT return to work, it could add $27 trillion to the Indian economy. That’s a massive talent pool.” As he sums up, “A diverse workforce drives innovation and business performance.”

A welter of factors is driving women to take up Taara’s upskilling courses. While some found this as their second innings, and others as a silver lining during the pandemic, there were a few women who used the courses to pivot from their current job profile as well. Some have found new areas of interest during the lockdown motivating them to pursue the course with vigour.

“To be clear, it’s no easy feat getting back into the workforce despite several roadblocks. It shows solid commitment. Most women possess the ability to juggle many things and balance it all, which is, in fact, an asset to the organisation. It’s really an archaic mindset that women aren’t as competent as men, and we need to do away with it,” says Hewett, on why it’s important to create a level playing field.

Published on November 04, 2020

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